Steyn grateful for Zim support

HARARE - Skier Luke Steyn has hailed the support he has received from Zimbabweans from all walks of life after he became the first local athlete to compete at the Winter Olympics.

The 20-year-old skier, who will compete in the slalom and giant slalom events at the ongoing Winter Olympics in Sochi, has become an overnight sensation in the southern African country that last recorded a drop of snow in 1980.

“It’s been phenomenal. I didn’t realise it going to be big as it has been so far. People have been adding me on Facebook and sending me messages daily saying ‘Good luck, we are so proud of you’, that sort of thing,” Steyn said during a video interview with the BBC News Africa programme last week.

“The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (Zoc) has been great in helping me get there. Not just financially but also the moral support. They have been encouraging me and helping me set up a team.”

The University of Colorado business-management student, who receives a $1 500 monthly grant from the International Olympic Committee, will have to contend with some of the top-ranked skiers in the world like Marcel Hirscher of Austria.

He is, however, not putting any pressure on himself as this is the first time that he will be competing at such a big event.

“I’m not going there for anyone else but myself. In that sense you have to be selfish and set goals that I’m happy with. It is very difficult to set placement goals and say this is what I’m going to achieve,” he said.

“I kinda wanna put in a performance that I’m happy with which matches my skiing abilities and the training I’ve put in the last couple of months.”

With skiing virtually a foreign sport back home, Steyn has attracted a lot of media in Russia with many surprised with the fact that Zimbabwe is represented in Sochi.

Steyn explained how he got involved in the sport.

“Because of my dad’s job we moved to Switzerland and then France so that gave me a real opportunity to ski on some real snow in different resorts around Europe,” he said.

“When I was on holiday, I got invited to different academies and that’s when my racing career started.   

“I guess because I’ve been doing it for quite long, I don’t feel unique in any way. But I understand it when people say, ‘Wow! An African national competing at the Winter Olympics.

“It’s very new to them but for me I’ve been doing this for my whole life.”

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